It was the summer of 2010. My then-boyfriend The Samurai was in Los Angeles visiting his family, and I’d decided to spend my holiday in Oregon because of that. I went to an unplugged household with no Internet, poor cell service, and one working DVD player. It was the perfect environment to work on my new novel idea, a then-untitled vampire story. I took the one page I’d typed up on a computer and bought a black notebook to handwrite the rest in. And I got started.
I remember those nights with fond nostalgia because it was just so perfect. After my grandparents went to bed for the night, I’d put on a DVD (either Sweeney Todd or New Moon), open up a can of Coke, and get to work with pen and paper. Usually I worked until around twelve, but sometimes later. The idea spawned from my dislike of what I was reading in the vampire genre: all those poor misunderstood girls who found love with ‘monsters’ and wanted to live forever. I asked myself, “What if someone who didn’t want to be a vampire turned into one?”
When I was fourteen, I wrote a vapid novel about an emo girl from an abusive home who found an emo vampire to love her and life got better. While there were elements from the story I still loved, there were others (mainly the overdone love plot) that I didn’t like as much. So, knowing that that novel would never again see the light of day in any form, I took what I liked and put it into my new novel. I filled out a notebook by the end of summer.
Then, as with all my writing projects, I got distracted by school and other things and my untitled idea was put on the backburner. Later, I picked up the story again and got back to work. I knew that I wanted to enter it in the Scholastic Writing Contest in the novel category (which only requires the first fifty pages and an outline of the rest of the book) so I set to work on typing up what I had, editing it as I went, and figuring out where the rest of the book was going to go. I gave it a title that I felt summed up the theme and left an impact: STAINED.
Obviously, I didn’t win anything with my rough-ish draft of a novel, but it didn’t stop me from wanting to finish the book. I kept writing, filled out another notebook, and headed into my senior year of high school. The book was over a year old, but not finished. At my school, we were required to do a ‘senior project’, a study of some subject that involved not only research but also a product to show our efforts. I, being the insane person I am, made my novel my project so that I would be forced to finish it before Christmas break of that year.
I still don’t know how I managed to work on homework for other classes, write my novel, and perform in the fall play that year. I attribute part of it to my scarily-easy math class with a lame professor which gave me plenty of time to write during that hour or so of time. In fact, that’s the class I finished the novel in. I remember putting down my pen, staring at the clock for a moment, and turning with wide eyes to my friend. “I just finished my novel.”
Then came the editing, typing, and revising—all essential parts of the process. I did this while writing my research paper and including examples from other vampire works for characterization, plot, etc. I remember that my practice run of my presentation was thirty minutes long, and I had to trim it down to fifteen. I designed book covers, recorded the estimated time it took me to do everything, revised my paper, and gave a thirteen minute presentation when it was done.
I gave copies out to some people after break, requiring them to sign a confidentiality paper with a witness before handing it over. And, from the bits of feedback I got, people liked it. So I submitted a manuscript and query to DAW, and crossed my fingers. I got my first rejection letter on August 12, 2012, but knew that it would probably be the first of many. It just meant that Stained was not ready yet. So I went back to edit and revise some more.
And since that day it’s been a repeat of that process. I finished the eighth version of my novel on July 23, 2015—five years since I started writing this small idea. What have I learned since writing that first draft in pen? A lot actually. I found my voice, discovered what I liked most about the story and made it stronger, found the weaknesses and destroyed or fixed them, and I changed some characters for the better. In the first draft the character of Cathryon was stiff, formal, and uninteresting to read and it took several drafts for me to give him his own crux, his own updated voice, and to make him someone whose perspective would weigh the same as the other character’s. I changed the sex of a few characters, tore out an entire chunk of the first draft that had seemed important, and gradually made it into an almost-new novel.
Currently, Stained 8.0 is in the hands of my most-valued beta reader, someone who has read pretty much everything I’ve ever written. Once he says that it’s ready, I’m going to start sending out queries and manuscripts again. I think it’s finally time, and I think that I’ve almost finished this chapter of my life. Stained is and will always be my baby, but I have other children waiting to be born and loved. It’s time for me to move on from vampires and try something new.